The Massachusetts Governor's Council
(also known as the Executive Council
) is a governmental body that provides advice and consent
in certain matters such as judicial nominations, pardons, and commutations to the Governor of Massachusetts
. Councillors are elected by the general public and their duties are set forth in the Massachusetts Constitution
The Council is composed of eight councillors and the governor or lieutenant governor, who presides over the Council. The Massachusetts Constitution specifies that "the governor, and in his absence the lieutenant governor, shall be president of the council, but shall have no vote in council: and the lieutenant governor shall always be a member of the council except when the chair of the governor shall be vacant.
The eight councillors are elected every two years, one each from eight councillor districts. The Governor's Council districts are specially composed. Each district consists of the entirety of five contiguous Massachusetts Senate districts.
There are provisions in the Massachusetts Constitution for filling unexpected vacancies. If a seat on the Council becomes vacant, the General Court may, by concurrent vote, select some person from the relevant councillor district to fill the opening. If the General Court is not in session, the Governor may select the new councillor, with the advice and consent of the existing Council.
The Council generally meets at noon on Wednesdays in its State House
Chamber, next to the Governor's Office. Pursuant to the Massachusetts Constitution, the Governor may, in general and at his discretion, from time to time
assemble the Council for the ordering and directing the affairs of the commonwealth.
In addition, the Governor must seek the advice and consent of the Council with respect to nominations of judicial officers
, appointment and removal of notaries public
and justices of the peace
, issuance of pardons
, and payment of monies from the treasury. The Council recently came under scrutiny after certain members employed peculiar and aggressive tactics to oppose distinguished judicial nominees.
Historical role in Gubernatorial succession
Originally, the Massachusetts Constitution placed the Governor's Council in the line of executive succession. If the offices of Governor
and Lieutenant Governor
simultaneously were vacant, the Council would act as chief executive. This occurred four times, the last being in 1800, when its chairman was Thomas Dawes
. The Constitutional line of succession subsequently was amended to remove the Council and insert the "secretary, attorney-general, treasurer and receiver-general, and auditor," in that order.